MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday told law enforcers and prosecutors to "never waver" in the fight against the narcotics trade despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dragged the economy into recession, sickened over 432,000 and spawned 8 months of quarantine restrictions that limited movement.
Drug traffickers "do not cease in their criminal activities" despite the pandemic, Duterte said in a ceremonial destruction of seized illegal drugs at a facility in Cavite province.
"We must therefore remain steadfast in our campaign not only by intensifying our operations against drug trafficking, but also by reforming our criminal justice system and addressing the root causes of drug use and dependency," he said in a speech.
"I am asking the brave men and women of our law enforcement agencies, the prosecution service and the judiciary to never waver in their difficult, yet rewarding task," he added.
He also repeated his accusation that rights defenders are "preoccupied" with the life of criminals, his advice for law enforcers to shoot suspects who fight back, and his promise to take responsibility for deaths in operations.
Duterte last month said 167 million Filipinos were addicted to drugs, more than the 100-million population of the country. Roque said this was a "typo error" and that the President meant 1.67 million drug users.
A United Nations report in June said tens of thousands of people in the Philippines may have been killed in the war on drugs with "near impunity" for police and incitement to violence by top officials since mid-2016.
Government has many times said those slain in anti-drug operations had violently resisted arrest, prompting operatives to open fire and defend themselves.
The Philippines will "fully cooperate" with the UN on human rights issues after the international body pledged "technical assistance" to help the Duterte government probe killings, Malacañang recently said.
While campaigning to be president, Duterte had vowed to end the drug scourge in 3 to 6 months, but later admitted he was wrong in promising such timeline as he noted the magnitude of the problem.
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